A critical take on current affairs and spirituality converge in a Roots-Reggae styled extravaganza
Germany – Uwe Banton, a firm fixture on the German Reggae scene, and a known dreadlocked Rastafarian, has just dropped his new album titled “Free Your Mind”. Expect a smooth blend of Caribbean riddims, conscious lyrics, and musical mastery.
Banton’s new album will be available on CD and all major digital download/streaming services. “Out Of Many, One Album”, is the phrase that best characterizes this blend of Roots, Reggae, Ska, Lovers Rock, Rocksteady, and Afrobeat; true to Jamaica’s motto “Out Of Many, One People”. The opening track itself, “Ark of the Covenant”, is an extremely and literally heartfelt track, starting off with heartbeat-like drums and setting the scene for the many musical revelations to come.
Banton, whose real name is Uwe Schäfer, is a true northwestern original from the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany, but is also known well beyond the country’s borders. The 55-year-old singer has earned his place in the Reggae hall-of-fame, way beyond the European scene, and has a dedicated worldwide following. Uwe Banton’s fourth studio album is the result of a collaboration with Ganjaman, another Reggae heavyweight out of Germany, and bears witness to Banton’s affinity to his Rastafari faith, a spiritual philosophy that has its roots in Jamaica; just like Reggae Music itself. Banton celebrates the roots of Reggae in his music, continuing to spread the message of Rastafari out into the world. Whimsical and easy, yet at the same time, highly profound, Banton asks some of the big questions about the meaning of human nature and life itself, on the brand new album “Free your Mind”.
“So search your soul, and you will see; the more we are together, the happier we shall be. Remember, love is the key. The best things in life are free!”
(from: “No Special Reason”)
Banton sings about freeing the mind and reminds us of important values that might bring us closer to our true selves and to ultimately making the world a better place. As a lyricist, Banton never assumes a-holier-than-thou attitude, but rather brings his message across with a knowing smile instead, one which you can literally hear in his songs. Of course, Reggae lyrics need to be critical of society and speak truth to power, and this album is no exception. Banton, who sings both in German and Jamaican Patois, addresses social issues and chastises politicians worldwide for their handling of the present crisis in no uncertain terms. The songs “Speak the Truth”, which directly criticizes governments, and “Wir Weigern Uns” (German for “We Refuse”), which exhorts people not to comply uncritically with the orders of those in power, present two examples of the album’s critical attitude, and the message.
On his album, Banton also gets vocal support from three of his brethren in spirit, on “I Am Not Afraid“, it’s long-time fixture Ganjaman, from Berlin. Ras Yohannes, more famously known as Ras Jahny, from Ethiopia, sings in the Ethiopian language of Amharic on “Ark of the Covenant”, and also Africa Cele, from South Africa, whose smooth, deep voice is an ideal match for Banton’s in the duet love song “Hurry Up and Come.”
“Free Your Mind” bespeaks the international appeal of both Reggae—the music of the Rastafarians, which has been a global phenomenon since the 1970s—and of the Rastafarian lifestyle itself, which also keeps inspiring people everywhere. The cover and booklet of the CD have been designed by the US artist Ras Elijah Tafari, while the album, with its total of 18 tracks (15 songs and 3 Dub versions) celebrates the bright side of globalization: It was recorded and produced in five different countries—Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Germany, Jamaica and South Africa—on three different continents, namely Africa, America and Europe. Over 30 musicians from Costa Rica, Cuba, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Lesotho, the Netherlands, South Africa and the US are featured on this album, which truly makes this “one album out of many”, on more levels than merely geographical, too.
His Jamaican friends have given Uwe Schäfer the moniker “Banton”, which hints at the lyrical bandwidth of this full blood musician. He first visited Jamaica in 1981, when he was only 15 years old; ever since then he has been in love with Reggae and each new album he releases presents a new peak in this ongoing love affair. This is just one reason why sampling the album “Free Your Mind” will definitely be worth your while.